About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Friday, September 11, 2009

#86 - True Colors

Sigh. I do think I've found a new guilty pleasure.

One thing I owe to this blog is that I've stopped apologizing for what I read. Sometimes it's Literature, sometimes it's scholarly non-fiction, sometimes it's just fun. This is entertainment, darn it. Y'know, a hobby. Something I do for recreation. Sometimes I want to be challenged or provoked or informed, and others, I just want to be amused.

Sadly, chick lit isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Just when I think I've found an author who can reliably deliver the goods (i.e., escapist reading), either she goes and dies on me (R.I.P., Olivia Goldsmith) or (worse, 'cause I keep reading it even when I know I'll wish I hadn't later; the bibliophile's potato chips) she churns out one repetitive, bland bestseller after another, none of which ever taste as good as they used to.

Fortunately, it seems that Kristin Hannah can hook me up, at least for a while. True Colors (St. Martin's, 2009) is as girly as they come -- it's got a pink sunset and seashells on the cover, a friendly girl-next-door author pic on the back, and plotwise, it's about 3 steps above Danielle Steele -- but it's an engaging story about 3 sisters in a small Washington State town, has plausible, non-ridiculous characters, and is just plain fun to read. So here we are.

The three principals, Winona, Aurora, and Vivi Ann, have always been the closest of friends and soulmates; Pea, Bean, and Sprout in their mother's beloved garden. All three have also remained in their tiny hometown of Oyster Shores, despite their mother's death and their father's blunt, stoic emotionlessness. Winona is a successful small-town attorney, although she remains single and childless, and continues to struggle with her weight; Aurora is married to the kind if boring Richard; and glamorous Vivi, always their father's favorite, remains with him on the Grey family ranch and continues to ride their mother's beloved mare Clem.

Their comfortable routine of Friday "girls' night" at the local bar and Sunday walks to church en famile becomes strained when a stranger, one Dallas Raintree, comes to town. While even the girls' father grudgingly admits Dallas is a hard worker and knows his horses, he's also biracial, tattooed, and seems more than a little unsavory; nonetheless, there's an undeniable chemistry between him and Vivi. Unaccustomed to her father's anger and disappointment, Vivi quickly deflects attention from her and Dallas by agreeing to marry Luke Connelly, an old classmate of Winona's who's recently returned to town. This presents two problems, however. One, for all her efforts, Vivi just doesn't love Luke; two, Winona does, and has since she was 15, but fears it's too late to 'fess up. Things come to a head when Winona inadvertently catches Vivi and Dallas in mid-tryst, and then betrays her sister by rushing to tell Luke and their father.

When the dust settles, Vivi and Dallas have eloped, and the sisters forge a grudging forgiveness (more than their father, who's never trusted Dallas, is able to do). An occasionally-tense peace stands for several years, and after a fragile beginning, Dallas and Vivi's son Noah grows to a young boy.

Until the Christmas eve Cat Morgan, latter-day local Belle Watling and Old Friend (smug eyebrow wiggle) of Dallas', is found dead in her saloon. Vivi is steadfast in her belief in Dallas' innocence, but their neighbors have mistrusted him from the get-go, and he does have a criminal record. Winona, likewise, is unconvinced, and refuses to take Dallas' case. Without funds for a skilled lawyer or a thorough defense, Dallas is convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Vivi blames Winona for doubting him and for failing to help, and the sisters' relationship is shattered, with peacemaker Aurora taking Vivi's side, and father Henry (for once) on Winona's.

The story continues from there, and to Hannah's credit, kept me guessing about many of the points right up till the end. Is Dallas indeed innocent, and will he ever be freed? Can Winona truly forgive Vivi for winning Luke's love, and will she ever find love of her own? Is there some crumb of passion somewhere in Aurora's marriage that's worth saving? How will Noah be affected by growing up not knowing or knowing about his dad? Yes, the ending's a bit tidy, but given the overall strength of the book as a fun, light read, I'll allow that.

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